• Governors Forum demands transparency in NNPC finances
•Jonathan shuns meeting with state chief executives
• Okonjo-Iweala accused of stopping $200m ADB loan for Rivers
Nov. 17, 2013
Who and what could have made $5billion disappear from the nation’s Excess Crude Account (ECA)?
This was the challenge the Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Rotimi Amaechi, threw at the anti-graft agencies yesterday in Sokoto.
He spoke while declaring the second annual retreat of the state chief executives open.
The River State governor said the Excess Crude Account stood at $9billion last January only to shrink to only $4billion today.
“That account belongs to Federal, States and Local Governments. Today it is $4billion. We don’t know who took $5billion,” he said.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who was billed to deliver the key note address at the retreat, was absent.
He did not send any representative.
Also absent were members of the Jang -led faction of the forum, which enjoys the backing of the Presidency.
Amaechi said it was convenient for the anti-graft agencies to look the other way now on the matter because of the apparent involvement of the Federal Government whereas the same agencies, according to him, would have waded in if any of the state or local governments were involved in a similar financial irregularity.
He said the agencies are being used for political vendetta against opponents of the federal authorities.
His words: “Today the EFCC is either in Jigawa or in Kano because they disagree with the President. What about NNPC? What about the Ministry of Niger Delta and the Ministry of Works?
“The whole governors put together we receive 26 per cent from the revenue of the Federation. The Federal Government gets 52 per cent. And with that 52 per cent, nobody goes after the Federal Government to say ‘how did you spend it’?
“And then you go after those who got 26 per cent. Even if you recover all the 26 per cent, what have you benefitted from it as against those who have stolen 52 per cent?”
He asked the followership to begin to demand accountability from the leadership otherwise entrenching democracy in the country would remain a mirage.
Lamenting the lack of effective leadership in the country, he said: “”The only thing that fascinates me is the definition of legacy projects. Because if I were to be the President, I would want to leave a legacy of free and fair elections.
“But nobody in government or outside government sees that as a legacy. Those are the intangibles that can make for good governance. Nobody believes that governance is not the structures that have broken down.
“Nobody knows that Nigeria is as chaotic as it is because there are no organizations; we have no rules. What I mean is not laws by the National Assembly – the standard by which you measure the expectation of the people you govern.
“There is a friend of mine who went to see the Inspector General of Police and then he got there and saw a DIG and then the DIG said ‘you are also here, are you not Governor Amaechi’s friend who is against our government?’
“This means from day one, the police is on the other side. And the police is the Nigeria police. It is not PDP police.”
He also spoke on his ordeals in the hands of the Federal Government arising from his disagreement with the Presidency.
He accused the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala of refusing to approve a $200million loan meant to provide water for the people of Rivers State because of his disagreement with the President.
He said that other agents/agencies of the Federal Government have stalled development in his state for the same reason.
The governor said: “The African Development Bank (ADB) met with the Rivers State Government. We agreed on the loan and they signed off every document. All the requirements have been met to give us $200million as loan for water in River State.
“We travelled and concluded every arrangement but the Minister of Finance, who by international standard is recognised in the world, has refused to sign off for us to provide water for Rivers people.
“Meanwhile, I ,the Governor, I drink bottled water paid for by Rivers people and then she has refused to sign off for the money to be released so that we can give our people water because Governor Amaechi is against the President.
“So it is like two women quarrelling and keeping malice with you. So they are keeping malice with me now and my people should die because I disagreed with the President.”
Amaechi said Nigeria is facing lot of challenges, which can only be addressed if the leaders make conscious efforts to do the right thing.
The Catholic Archbishop of Sokoto, Dr Matthew Kukah, in his presentation entitled: “Good governance and the imperative for managing and leaving a sustainable legacy” charged the governors to leave legacies for which they will be remembered by the people.
He decried a situation where governors receive awards from everywhere without concrete development in their states.
On the role of education in good governance, the clergyman said the nation cannot move forward without ensuring that every child is given quality education.
Kuka said: “It is impossible for us to move in any direction at all without seriously, honestly and sincerely committing ourselves to the fact that we have a commitment that no single child in Nigeria be left behind in terms of education.
“I’m hearing from the Ministry of Education, all kinds of agencies, the Universal Basic Education that there are hundreds of billions of Naira locked up.
“States cannot access the money simply because they have not been able to come up with counterpart funding.
“The truth is that we have not made up our mind about education because I don’t know whether we are not running contrary by having a school where the children attending the Almajiri schools are already stigmatised.
“How many really serious members of the Nigerian elite will send their children to these schools? And am I going to graduate one day with a PhD from Almajiri school and I want to be a professor in this country?
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who spoke on the “Role of states in deepening democracy and good governance in Nigeria” lamented that the military terminated the country’s parliamentary system of government that was suitable for Nigeria and replaced it with the presidential system which in essence is a unitary system of government.
Tambuwal faulted the unwieldy powers vested on the Federal Government by the Constitution which “has also made it possible for the Federal Government to control the police making it almost impossible for states to have a significant role to play in crime prevention and law enforcement.
“When you see the way things are going in Nigeria, you come to the conclusion that it is not possible for us to practise presidential system of government the way it is done in the United States from where we copied our federation.
“Another manifestation of the unitary system is the concentration of resource allocation on the federal government leaving states as if they were beggars.”
He added that the State Assemblies have failed the people by not being able to exercise due oversight on the state executives.
In a communiqué at the end of the retreat, the NGF insisted on transparency in the operations of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and urged Nigerians to stop being docile in the face of monumental impunity in the country.
The governors stressed the need for “intangible aspects of good governance anchored on a framework of ethics, values and political morality to drive development and leave a durable legacy of democratic governance.”